LA JOLLA, Calif. — No. 14 UC San Diego split its final two games of a four-game series with Cal State East Bay, taking a 3-1 win before falling 7-5 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play on Tuesday afternoon at Triton Softball Field.
After going 2-2 against CSUEB on Monday and Tuesday, UCSD moves to 26-10 overall and 20-8 in CCAA play on the season. CSUEB is 18-16 and 9-15 in conference.
“I thought that East Bay would be a good team and they really did a quality job this series,” UCSD head coach Patti Gerckens said. “They hit the ball hard and made plays when they needed to. Their pitching was solid and they competed really, really well.”
In the opening game, UCSD starter Camille Gaito (16-4) gave up a leadoff double and a run in the top of the first, but settled down to limit the Pioneers to six hits while striking out four.
UCSD bounced back in its half of the first, as Kris Lesovsky and Kirsten Willmon walked before CSUEB starter Kelley Lowe (5-6) was pulled by head coach Barbara Pierce after a wild pitch. Andi Andersen took over for Lowe, but Mya Romero tagged Andersen for a two-run double to left-center field, pushing Lesovsky and Willmon across.
Romero stole third and was brought home when Nicole Spangler grounded into a double play to the right side, making it 3-1 in favor of UCSD.
Gaito became the third Triton pitcher in history to reach the 500-strikeout plateau with her first punch-out in the second inning, and now needs just three more to surpass Leea Harlan’s (1999-02) school record of 505.
Tuesday’s second game looked much like Monday’s game two for the Tritons, who left a number of opportunities slip away while giving the Pioneers chances to captalize. CSUEB took advantage by cracking four home runs in the victory.
UCSD loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first inning after Willmon, Romero and Charly Swanberg singled in succession, but CSUEB’s Talia Ferrari forced Spangler and Caitlin Brown into pop outs to end the threat.
CSUEB used a little luck to take the lead in its next at-bat, as Emily Montanez’s deep fly ball to left glanced off Willmon’s glove and over the wall to give the Pioneers a 2-0 lead.
The Tritons rallied to tie the game in the fourth inning. Spangler led off with a double before Brown doubled off the wall to bring in pinch-runner Annie Heskett from second. Emily McQuaid knocked in Brown with her second RBI in as many days, making it 2-2.
However, CSUEB opened the game up with three home runs in the fifth. Sara Holdridge sent Michelle Escamilla’s (5-3) first pitch of the inning over the left field wall before Jamie Yaller and Taylor Neumann went back-to-back with a three-run home run and a solo home run, respectively.
Down 7-2 in their final chance at the plate, McQuaid, Lesovsky and Willmon led off with singles to load the bases with no out. CSUEB reliever Lauren Zweigle (5-4) got Romero to pop up to short on the first pitch, but Swanberg gave the Tritons a bit of hope with a two-run single up the middle to bring UCSD within three.
Spangler came up as the tying run with runners on first and second and lifted a fly ball to right field. Heidi McAllister dropped the can-of-corn, but center fielder Mishka Hamor backed up her teammate and threw-out Swanberg at second base.
Brown knocked in Willmon from third with a two-out single, bringing the Tritons within two and the winning run at the plate. However, Zweigle won the battle with Monique Portugal by forcing the Triton freshman to foul out along the left field line to end the game.
“We’re not staying on the ball and its seems like we’re pulling out of our swings. We need to learn how to, honestly, hit balls fair and that’s something we’re going to work on,” Gerckens said.
Romero led the Tritons with a 5-for-11 (.455) series while Emily McQuaid batted .444 (4-for-9) with a pair of RBIs. Swanberg went 4-for-10 (.400) and drove in three. Brown was 5-for-13 (.385) with a team-high four RBIs.